McComish v. Bennett: An early snipe

During today’s oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, involving a challenge to a state law having nothing to do with the federal law known as McCain-McCain, Justice Breyer stated, ““What’s going through my mind is we are deeply into the details of a very complex bill. McCain-Feingold is hundreds of pages, and we cannot possibly test each provision which is related to the others on such a test of whether it equalizes or incentivizes or some other thing, because the answer is normally we don’t know.”

Does the Justice understand what McCain-Feingold did and did not do?  McCain-Feingold, a federal law also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, had nothing to do with government financing of campaigns.  McComish v. Bennett is a challenge to an Arizona law that provides government financing for the campaigns of some candidates.

Filed Under: Blog

Testimony of CCP President Sean Parnell to the Maine Joint Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs

Written testimony of CCP President Sean Parnell at a March 28, 2011 hearing of the Maine Joint Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs on the topic of LD 659, concerning a repeal of the Maine Clean Election Act.

Filed Under: Blog, External Relations Comments and Testimony, External Relations Sub-Pages, State, State Comments and Testimony, Tax Financed Campaigns Comments, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing, clean elections, maine, public financed, Comments and Testimony, Maine

Supreme Court Revisits Campaign Finance

Filed Under: In the News

Government Shouldn’t Play Election Favorites

Filed Under: In the News

Supreme Court cse has implications for Connecticut ampaign finance ca

Filed Under: In the News

Government Shouldn’t Play Election Favorites

CCP Chairman Brad Smith has this op-ed in tomorrow’s edition of the Wall Street Journal:

Should the government choose sides in elections? That is the core question at stake today when the Supreme Court hears oral argument in McComish v. Bennett, challenging Arizona’s tax financing system for political candidates.

Historically, the government’s role in elections was limited to managing the process of voting in a neutral, nonpartisan way. From an early date virtually every state and the federal government enacted laws prohibiting the use of state resources for campaigning.

In the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, however, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of government directly funding candidate campaigns, so long as candidates remained free not to participate. Under these programs, candidates received a lump sum from the government in exchange for limiting their own fundraising and spending.

In recent years, Arizona and a handful of other jurisdictions have gone far beyond what was approved in Buckley by offering candidates “rescue” funds. In this scheme, if a tax-subsidized candidate is outspent by an unsubsidized candidate, the government gives additional money to the participating candidate—usually enough to match the amounts raised by the non-participating candidate. And if a group of citizens, such as or the Club for Growth, spends money to criticize a participating candidate, the government gives still more “rescue” money to that candidate.

Read the whole thing at the WSJ.

Filed Under: Blog, Arizona

Early returns indicate benefits of Citzens United, decisions

It’s been barely a year since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling in v. Federal Election Commission resulted in a dramatic liberalization of the law regarding independent expenditures in political campaigns, but that hasn’t stopped the unending chorus of dire warnings from “reform” jannisaries who see themselves as the ancient protectors of the old regulatory regime.  In fact, though, the early anecdotal evidence and numbers are almost all good.  Citizens United and SpeechNow have coincided so far with an explosion in the number of competitive races, more political speech, and campaigns with a greater focus on big issues of national direction rather than trivia, faffe, and personality.

The latest bit of data supporting the wisdom of the courts’ deregulatory, pro-First Amendment jurisprudence is a short report by Michael Beckel for the Center for Responsive Politics (no relation). 

Filed Under: Blog

Crossroads GPS and government transparency

Liberal-leaning pro-regulation groups blasted a conservative group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, as hypocrites for launching a transparency project but protecting the privacy of its donors.

Democrats in Congress, reeling from critical ads Crossroads GPS ran in the 2010 campaign and during the current Congress, piled on. The DCCC launched a website,, to highlight stories about Crossroads GPS declining to disclose their donors.

The criticism of Crossroads GPS misses a huge distinction. The group is calling for government disclosure, an essential tool to hold elected officials accountable. Crossroads’ critics, however, are calling for the government to force a private groups and citizens to reveal their associations, chilling political speech as government opponents and rival groups are empowered to retaliate.

Transparency should enable citizens to serve as watchdogs of government—not the other way around.

Filed Under: Blog, Disclosure, Disclosure Press Release/In the News/Blog

Opponents of unlimited outside election spending take issue to FCC

Filed Under: In the News

NRO on Ohio’s false statements law

National Review Online has a great piece examining the pernicious impact of Ohio’s false statements law on political speech in the Buckeye state:

Ohio’s law, which prohibits anyone from making “a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official,” applies to all non-presidential elections, even if they are for federal office. Sixty to 80 cases are brought to the Ohio Election Commission’s attention every year, estimates Philip Richter, its executive director. About ten to 15 of those ultimately receive a hearing from the full commission. (More pass the preliminary-hearing phase, but sometimes the parties reach agreement and the complaint is dropped before the full hearing.) If the OEC decides that a statement is false, there are three possible outcomes: The person making the statement can be prosecuted by Ohio (very rarely applied), the person can receive a public reprimand letter, or the commission can announce its finding of falsity.

For those in Ohio who have grappled with the law for years, there is concern about how often the law already stifles speech. “The mere existence of the law allows people to make an allegation and then chill speech right before an election, which is exactly what Driehaus was able to do,” comments Maurice Thompson, executive director of the Ohio-based 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

Chris Finney, an Ohio lawyer who has represented multiple clients in cases involving the Commission, is frank about his frustrations with the law.

“Ninety-eight percent of the stuff that goes on at the Ohio Elections Commission has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the statement in question,” he says. “It has to do with trying to embarrass your opponent as Election Day approaches. You get a headline that says this person is a liar. You may get a ruling in time that you can publish printed materials that say the OEC found that my opponent lied.  And that’s what it’s all about.”

CCP has tackled this issue many times.

Filed Under: Blog

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.